tv America Tonight Al Jazeera November 30, 2015 9:30pm-10:01pm EST
>> on "america tonight": failing grades for classrooms. is it even safe for kids to go to school here? >> the walls are crumbling. >> there's mold. >> mouse droppings. >> asbestos. >> human waste. >> paint and powder comes out of the walls. >> lisa fletcher, from "america tonight." >> how many deficiency were identified? >> i don't. >> if i told you it was 6,000
would that surprise you? >> it would not. >> thanks for joining us, i'm joie chen. it is an education crisis you may not have contemplated. philadelphia's schools like many are cash-strapped. so the administration has taken on the usual. increasing class sizes and something parents can't live with. classroom conditions so decrepit kids can't learn and may even be in danger. "america tonight's" lynch ha lia tonight's" lisa fletcher has a look inside. >> mold and mildew creeping through classrooms and toys contaminated with rodent and insect droppings. these are just some of the conditions documented inside philadelphia's public schools. >> falling apart through layers of negligence. >> robin roberts is a concerned mom and member of the advocacy
group, parents united for public education. growing up in philadelphia public schools. >> we don't feel safe sending our kids to an environment which we don't think is in their best health interest. there's no reason for someone to walk into a district school that is dirty that has mouse droppings that has applies on traps, that has huge mold stains on the wall. peeling plaster and paint. >> the city's top watchdog philadelphia controller allen butkovitz has been doggedly after the district for evere for years exposing a deplorable and dangerous condition for kids. >> we have highlighted the filthy conditions but there are mundane conditions we suspect are very health-damaging for kids. there's mold, there's exposed
asbestos that hasn't been encapsulated, as regulations require. >> reporter: take a look at what some of the city controller found in his most recent investigation. released just a few months ago after inspecting 20 of the city's more than 200 schools. exposed high voltage panels. door handles removed if emergency exits. falling concrete. broken doors and windows. and toilets permanently clogged with waste. >> most egregious pictures are the ones of the bathrooms which had human waste in the toilets that had not been flushed or cleaned. >> butkovititz credits the schol district with addressing the most egregious issues. >> what do you .is goin. is going on.
>> exactlexpect is goingsuspect. >> just outright lying by the school district. >> how so? what were they lying about? >> they would say it was an inadequate sample or they would try create a distraction issue such as why didn't we give them two weeks notice that they were showing up? well obviously if we were giving them two weeks' notice they would create a showcase. >> routine neglected while the problems were still manageable. >> ten years ago, three were rolling in money. they didn't choose to use the money in a strategic way. >> i would disagree that money was mismanaged. it is also a result of the fact
that there hadn't been investment in capital in the district for almost a decade. that's a reality. >> her office is responsible for figuring out what gets fixed in philly's public schools. >> we have estimated our augments capital need, meaning the cost to bring every school to a state of good repair at approximately $4.1 billion. and a combined budget from both capital and our maintenance and facilities of approximately $350 million annually. >> reporter: no doubt fixing a problem so big requires a substantial amount of money and that's something the philly school district doesn't have a lot of these days. since 2001 public schools here have been under state control. and since then, enrollment has dropped, and budgets have been slashed. what that's meant for the 172,000 kids who attend public school is fewer teachers, larger class sizes and fewer janitors.
>> there's some really big challenge between our outstanding need and our ability to be able to address it and what we get done given resource we currently have. >> heating and cooling systems, ventilation systems that don't work, asbestos, chipping lead paint. how much of a health risk does that pose to the kids and the adults in the buildings? >> i think there's a joint agreement between making a connection between health risk and occupants, and how we prioritize and adjust the work we do moving forward. >> reporter: so there's a health risk, an immediate health risk to the kids? >> i would say it's hard to make sort of direct connections between some of the things that are occurring in our buildings, to whether or not there are immediate health risks to students given that there are other environments they are exposed to out of the school
building. >> but sited over and over and over again are complaints from students and teachers of respiratory illness and disease related to building conditions. in fact in 2013 a student died after a prolonged asthma attack in school. while 12-year-old la portia massey's medical condition was preexisting, the environmental conditions at the elementary were documented as severely deficient, with 90% of the rooms holding asthma triggers, floyd says they are committed to solving these problems. philly school district spent the last five years evaluating the condition of its facilities inside and out. >> how many deficiency were identified during that time period among the schools do you know? >> i don't. >> if i told you that it was
6,000 would that be surprising to you? >> it would not. >> is it worrisome, is it disturbing? i hear a bureaucrat in front of me and that's jury job t your ja bureaucrat, imagine if you're a parent sending their child into school day after day, what are they supposed to do? >> we are a school district, responsible for providing bright, safe and warm environments. it is something that is a priority to me, as much as it is a priority for our colleagues. >> robin roberts is he she and other parents are tired of what they call rhetoric and the state and the district are failing philadelphia families. >> we have failures at every stage of the educational processing for us. what we're doing to our kids is basically telling them, this is as good as you get. and parents, when they speak
out, they are likely met with administrators that are sympathetic, but don't do anything. are sympathetic, and do something, or not sympathetic and tell parents to go away. and that happens more often than not. >> next, "america tonight's" lisa fletcher continues her in depth report with another tough question. the philadelphia school district has hundreds of inspection reports paid for by the public. so why can't the public see them? later, from cradle to grave. "america tonight's" sarah hoye on a novel approach to saving young lives in philadelphia, how the truth might help. and hot on "america tonight's" website now, powered up. transgender body builders and a contest that tests their inner strength at aljazeera.com/americatonight.
>> philadelphia's school district is the 14th largest in america. one of the biggest with one of the biggest problems right now, buildings in such bad shape that parents and teachers say it is dangerous to go to school. as you might expect, the dangers have been documented. independentlindependently revie. but parents say the truth isn't transparent to them. and that raises the danger to kids. "america tonight's" lisa fletcher continues her report on philadelphia's filthy schools. >> i find that the way the school district handles problems is rather than fix the roof, fix the plaster, rather than fix real problem. >> amy has been teaching since 2004. during the school year, she says she is chronically sick.
she has asthma and allergies to dust and mold. >> how bad is it? >> you know there's mold floors that have cracks in it, where floor is separating in between, paint peeling, drips and leaks. if a building looks like it's falling apart that sends a message to the students on what you think of them. >> reporter: kaufman says she's been sounding the alarm for years. "america tonight" obtained never before released photos of conditions inside some of philly's schools including kaufman's. mold-laiden carpet, broken ventilation units, stuffed with trash, and dangerously broken floors, openings for rodents and insects. >> they are not responsive, we
have a building engineer so if there's a problem with something we write it up for building engineer. the building engineer will make a work order. >> and the issues get repaired quickly? >> no. we wait. >> days? >> months, years. depends what the issue is because there's only so much staff. >> reporter: teachers at other schools share similar concerns. maria greco says, every day she worries about the kids getting really sick down the road as a result of what they're exposed to now. >> the walls of crumbling, the white powder comes down. it doesn't smell but it has affected my allergies. it has been linked to headaches so if it's causing problems for me i'm worried that it's causing problems in the kids that i teach as well. i've been in that same room now for four years. and they fix it at least three or four times since i've been in
that same room. instead of doing the same thing and wasting the money all over again, they should have just fixed it right the first time. >> fixing it right the first time is something danielle floyd says it already does. >> we have shifted a lot from trying to do singular projects, to taking a more holistic approach the trying to address many issues that occur in a school. what we don't want to continue to do is coming back to a school every two years because we need to fix something. >> reporter: jerry rosen is an environmental scientist and works with the school district. he has documented thousands of problems in the school district. >> the conditions are egregious and the conditions are kind of urgent and immediate. >> the union gave "america tonight" recent building reports and photos. stacks of textbooks destroyed by water and falling debris.
ceilings with up to 400 square feet of mold. and even a couch in the room for special needs kids, contaminated with rodent feces. >> do you think they are all beyond repair? >> no. i mean actually teen school that is here behind us a.s. jenks which is a very old building, has a very sold structure. a lot of philadelphia schools are in the 40 to 70 and 75 year range. >> rosemond says immediate and substantial repairs can be done and for much cheaper than school district's $4.1 billion price tag. >> we put out a plan that suggested a way to do that, by hiring a large and additional maintenance staff taking maybe five additional maintenance people to put into 50 or 60 schools at the same time, and to spend two weeks in each of those schools, in those two weeks you
would be able to stabilize and repair the interior of the buildings in very dramatic ways. it would make a sea change of difference. >> he says it would cost about $20 million. >> $4 billion in 200 schools means $20 million a school building. for every building that we're using right now as an educational space. that's throw seven times the national average for what schools need in terms of infrastructure. i just don't -- i don't believe it. but there's also no data that's being provided to justify that either. >> reporter: the district says it is making progress. over the past five years, it's been conducting indoor air quality tests and recently started compiling reports on the condition of every school. the parents say they are being denied access to that information. >> and where does the public find details of those reports. >> some of the information is available on our website.
for ieq dashboard information on those reports those are typically shared with the school, with the building occupy -- with the team or with the principal. >> just to be clear there's no place right now that the public can go and see the detailed inspection reports, see precisely what the issues are at their kids' school? >> there's not a central location so there's information maybe at a specific school level and would be available at a school but sort of a central data point as of right now no that does not exist. >> teachers and parents say that is one of the major problems. information being withheld coupled with a fear of the unknown. >> i don't really know what we're dealing with. i guess i would be happier if we did know what we were dealing with because then we would know how to fight back against it. and at least find out what's going on. >> concerned mom robin roberts says parents, teachers and
students have a right to know what's in their schools. >> there is no reason that i should not have access to that information. very cleanly. very transparently, very easy to find. there is no reason we should not have access to that. >> but that access would require transparency. something teachers and parents say is missing from this basic equation. >> "america tonight's" lisa fletcher is here with us. i don't really understand this, i'm a taxpayer, i'm a parent, i would be expected to be able to go to my kid's school district and say hey i want to see what you guys know about the conditions my kid is going to school in. isn't that fairly obvious? >> of course. all the parents we spoke to feel the same way. they with want the district to be transparent. despite the many times the school district said they were transparent, when we asked them to show us the goods they wouldn't do it.
we asked for the same information that the parents were asking for, we've been promised we get he them, we have not gotten that, we have not had a public reports request filled yet. >> in talking to you because you had both a leadership and communications person talking to you at that interview, how do they justify not ve revealing ts stuff to the parents? >> it was actually a little surprising, joie, we had the person we were interviewing but then the communications director sitting off to the side and he actually interrupted the interview a number of times while we were filming contradicting what was being said or trying justify what was being said so i eventually directed some questions to him and i said why not be transparent, just put it online and let the parents see this and come to their own conclusions. he actually said, parents are not savvy enough. >> not savvy you enough? >> not satisfiy enough to
analyze the data. these are reports provided to us 50 union and a lot of it is simple information or simple graphs that have the name of the school, the problem and the number of schools this have that problems, plold mildew broken windows broken ventilation systems. it's very basic. >> even if they were not in fact savvy enough to understand it themselves if this was public record, wouldn't they be able to turn to other experts and say, you know, is this dangerous to my child? is this dangerous to my child? what the parents have to live with is fear of the unflown. >> that's exactly right. they don't know how debilitating or dangerous these conditions can be and of course that just creates more fear. and they're just asking to just let us know. just tell us so we can make an educated decision whether or not we want our kid to continue to go to school there, whether we
think it's safe qul safe, whethr child's physician thinks its safe. there was a possession to get the school to participate in a federal study. the school district pulled out of that study against the will of a lot of these parents. >> well, it's really interesting to watch. "america tonight's" lisa fletcher, thanks so much. next, hard lessons in philadelphia. can the hamp trut harsh truth os ton street change minds? and christof putzel, with a second look at that free range meat and its true impact open our environment. that's tuesday on "america tonight."
>> we've seen the challenges philadelphia school kids face in their classrooms but like so many other big cities, philadelphia's children are also challenged by risks on the streets. violence especially gun violence in the city of brotherly love. how best to protect them? the answer may be to expose them to the truth. "america tonight's" sarah hoye now on a scared-straight approach. >> and then he'll see the young man who's pointing a .40 caliber handgun towards his back. that young man will shoot la mont four times and drop la mont and at point blank range he'll shoot la mont ten times more. >> the final moments of 16-year-old la mont's young life. retold in disturbing detail by scott charles. scott is the trauma outreach coordinator at temple university
hospital. not a group of medical students but at-risk teens. they have come to the hospital as a part of the cradle to grave program, scott introduced in the city of brotherly love. >> la mont is going to have a bullet wound right here, right here, i'm sorry my man, he had one right there. >> reporter: young people in philadelphia especially young men are at the greatest risk of dying from gun injury. in fact from black men's between the ages of 15 and 24 gun violence is the leading cause of death. with gun violence at epidemic levels, many public health officials argue it should be taken as seriously as a contagious disease. dr. amy goldberg, the hospital's chief trauma surgeon helped start the cradle to grave program. >> we have found that the kids and the students what they see an tv what they hear on the radio what they might see in a
video game is what they think happens if they were to sustain some sort of gunshot wound and we feel we ought to give them real education of what can occur after you get shot. >> dr. goldberg says her trauma unit sees about 400 gunshot patients oyear, many are young men of color. in the past decade more than 10,000 students have walked thrut the halls of the level 1 trauma department, like joey lopez, raised in a rough section of north philly and for a short time lived not far from the intersection where la mont adams was gunned down. >> describe to me what it was like growing up in philadelphia. >> came from a bad neighborhood, we didn't have up because my mom issues, my dad issues, my dad got locked up and taken away, i was like five, six at the time. time went by, went from one hood
to another hood to another hood, some people selling drugs some people not, some people doing drugs some people not. i was in a very bad crowd and some of the people i was back with in the hood, not here anymore, some dead some in jail. >> kids like joey could fall through cracks. when joe yeah started falling, the experience was there to help him, the opportunity to graduate on time. the academy provides not only an intense academic atmosphere but also much needed social and emotional support. nearly 26% of philadelphians live close to the poverty line, 60% of children here live in a household headed buy single parent, while 61% of philadelphia high school
students graduates in four years. and until the city gets a grip on the epidemic the cradle to grave program will continue. >> he holds his left happened up and he begs the young boy to stop shooting him. >> and the program, the number is too high. >> probably a month or two in i turned to dr. goldberg and said, i don't know that i can continue doing this. she said why. i said i find myself crying, upset, frustrated. she said you can cry, you can be frustrated you can be put off but you got do something about it. >> sarah hoye, al jazeera. >> that's "america tonight." tell us what you think. at aljazeera.com/americatonight. talk to us on twitter or facebook and come back. we'll have more of "america tonight," tomorrow.
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